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By 2010, the total area of vineyards on Waiheke Island and in the Matakana locality northeast of Warkworth was greater than the combined vineyard area of the two main Auckland viticultural nodes in the region during much of the twentieth century, Kumeu-Huapai and Henderson-Oratia. This group of more recent and emerging localities now has a similar area in vines to the Auckland vineyard in 1980 when the Ministry of Agriculture recorded 603 hectares.
Auckland’s sequence of growth, then decline, followed by a noticeable period of growth in the last decade, has involved two interrelated changes. The first is a varietal revolution. The second is spatial. In 1980, 68 per cent of the Auckland region’s 603 hectares in grapes were hybrids. By 1990 this proportion had fallen to under 20 per cent. These varietal changes also signal a spatial shift of winegrowing in the Auckland region towards the parts that receive lower rainfall and are less humid than the traditional area of West Auckland.
The owners of vineyards on Waiheke Island had already recognised that the classic varieties of Bordeaux would perform well there. Rainfall gradients from west to east are surprisingly steep across the narrow isthmus and peninsulas of the Auckland region, mainly because of the rain-shadow effect of the Waitakere Ranges which regularly receive over 2000 millimetres of annual rainfall and Henderson-Oratia about 1500
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In many years, parts of the east coast of the Auckland region and islands of its Hauraki Gulf have rainfall as low as 1000 millimetres.
The long axis of Waiheke Island is aligned east-west. A series of spine-like ridges roughly follow this alignment, with the result that the island has its share of north-facing slopes. Many of the successful vineyards have established on these slopes, especially those reasonably close to the north coast but seldom right on it where beach houses take first choice of the land. To ripen a variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon in the middle latitude, maritime climate of Auckland the vines need all of the accumulated energy that these sites can capture. Despite its small area, some pockets of land in the interior of Waiheke Island are sheltered from sea breezes and are noticeably warmer than those on the coast. On some of these large holdings, such as that of the Spencer family, favoured sites have been identified and planted in vines.
In the statistics collected by New Zealand Winegrowers, Auckland is identified as a region. However, many of the wine enterprises clustered around its urban periphery no longer identify themselves by their region. Instead, as with Waiheke and Matakana -each of which is an excellent example of the advantage of being a metropolitan vineyard – they prefer to build their reputation using the name of their immediate locality.